Later this month, the cedar- and pine-shaded stage of the Sierra Storytelling Festival at the North Columbia Schoolhouse Cultural Center will host Charlie Chin, MaryGay Ducey, Andy Offutt Irwin, Baba Jamal Koram, Laura Simms and Tim Tingle. Firefighter and author Caroline Paul will return to the San Juan Ridge as a special guest.
Charlie Chin has performed many times at the festival. He began his storytelling involvement in the 1980s when he worked for the Museum of the Chinese of America in New York City. He received a Community Scholar Certificate for his work in Asian-American studies from the Smithsonian Institute in 1989. Chin performs in the Teahouse style, using a folding fan. His calm demeanor and classy outfits obscure his sharp humor and cutting wit.
Known as the Queen Bee of Bay Area Storytelling, MaryGay Ducey has appeared on PBS, at colleges, libraries, and has headlined storytelling festivals across the country. She is a recipient of the Storytelling Distinguished National Service and Circle of Excellence awards. She is a piquant, authentic, and eloquent teller — the best playmate an audience can have. The Storytelling Festival organizers say they are graced to have her emcee their stage.
New to the Sierra Storytelling Festival — but famed across the nation — Andy Offutt Irwin has a manic Silly Putty voice, astonishing mouth noises and hilarious stories. He is equal parts mischievous schoolboy and the Marx Brothers, peppered with a touch of the Southern balladeer. A native of Covington, Ga., he is a storyteller, humorist, singer, songwriter, musician, whistler, walking menagerie of sound effects and dialects and so much more; some of his talents are hard to categorize.
Baba Jamal Koram loves telling at the Schoolhouse, for most national festivals are “about just autograph signing, but at Sierra, you can sit down with the folks that live there and talk to them,” said Koram. His storytelling is crackling alive with the history, humor, music and lore of African and African-American cultures. Blending contemporary and traditional storytelling techniques with drumming, call and response, wit and wisdom, his stories encourage youth to make intelligent choices and to improve their character.
Laura Simms advocates storytelling as compassionate action for personal and community transformation. A passionate New Yorker, erudite writer and fine teller, Simms will be teaching a workshop on telling during the festival. She received the Brimstone Award for Engaged Storytelling, CHOICE award for best story collection and “Sesame Street”’s Sunny Days award for work with children worldwide.
Special guest Caroline Paul graduated from Stanford University and expected to follow a career path that involved a briefcase and a bonus package. Instead, she picked up an axe and became a San Francisco firefighter. She continues to work on one of the busiest rigs in the city. Recently she updated, revised and reprinted her book, “Fighting Fire.” Jane Magazine reviewed that “fire fighting is still a man’s world, but Caroline tells her story without over-dramatizing or whining.”
Tim Tingle is a native of the Texas Gulf Coast. From his early college days, Tingle began collecting family Choctaw stories. His great-great-grandfather, John Carnes, walked the Trail of Tears in 1835, and his paternal grandmother attended a series of rigorous Indian boarding schools in the early 1900s.
The celebration of words starts July 19 and continues through July 21. For information and tickets, go to http://sierrastorytellingfestival.org.